Chicken Enchilada with Green Sauce

This deliciously cheesy chicken enchilada recipe with green sauce is stuffed with tender chicken and bathed in a zesty green tomatillo sauce. Corn tortillas make this Tex-Mex favorite gluten-free. Pile on the sour cream, avocado, and limes, taco-style.

Two chicken enchiladas with green sauce in a black shallow bowl with cubed avocado, sour cream, cilantro, and a lime half.

Chicken enchilada with green sauce. It’s a little something we just tossed together for supper that we like to think of as the best thing that ever happened to tomatillos. We think you’ll concur. And there’s no slaving over a stove required. Far from it. Originally published March 20, 2015.Renee Schettler Rossi

Chicken Enchilada with Green Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 2 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food cookbook

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  • For the green sauce (salsa verde)
  • For the chicken enchilada filling
  • For the assembly


Make the green sauce (salsa verde)

Line a broiler rack or pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Position it about 6 inches (15 centimeters) from the heat source and preheat the broiler.

Place the tomatillos, chiles, and garlic on the broiler rack. Brush the onion quarters with the oil and place them on the rack. Broil the vegetables until they’re browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the garlic to a plate. Flip the remaining vegetables and continue broiling until the tomatillos turn sort of a drab olive green, the chiles are blackened and blistered, and the onion is singed and tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the broiler and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Using your fingers, remove the stems, skins, and seeds from the chiles and discard. Peel the garlic. Toss the tomatillos, chiles, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, and salt in a blender and purée until smooth.

Make the chicken enchilada filling

Place the chicken in a deep saucepan or a Dutch oven with the smashed garlic and sliced onion. Add the 1 teaspoon salt and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover the saucepan, and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the chicken cool in the pan for 10 minutes. (The chicken should be cooked through.) Remove the chicken breasts from the saucepan and let them cool completely. If desired, reserve the cooking liquid as chicken stock for use in other recipes.

Remove the meat from the chicken breasts, discarding the skin and bones. Shred the meat and toss it in a bowl. Stir in the farmer cheese, 1/2 cup green enchilada sauce, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the chicken enchilada fixings

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly oil a 15-by-10-by-2-inch (38-by-25-by-5-cm) baking dish or roasting pan. Spread 1/2 cup green enchilada sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. One at a time, fry the tortillas, turning to warm each side, just until softened, about 10 seconds per side. Place each tortilla on a paper towel to drain the excess oil, then stack the warmed tortillas on a plate and cover with a clean towel to keep warm. [Editor’s Note: Looking to save a few calories? Use half as much oil.]

To assemble each chicken enchilada, spoon 2 heaping tablespoons chicken filling on the bottom third of a tortilla, roll it up, and arrange it, seam side down, in the baking dish. Assemble all the enchiladas. They should fit snuggly in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining green enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle with the Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted and golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve at once, topping each serving with a dollop of sour cream, some diced avocado, and if desired, sprigs of cilantro.

Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food cookbook

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    T-shirt Variation

    • Cheater’s Chicken Enchilada With Green Sauce
    • T-shirt variation

      Substitute 2 to 3 cups cooked, cooled, shredded cooked chicken (leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken works spectacularly!) for the freshly simmered chicken breast and mix it with the farmer or Cotija cheese, green enchilada sauce, and salt and pepper to taste and continue as instructed in the recipe. You can use leftover roast chicken, a rotisserie chicken you grabbed from the grocery store, grilled chicken—whatever you’ve got, it’ll work like a charm.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This chicken enchilada recipe was my first time cooking with tomatillos, and it was sooo easy. The green sauce was incredible—both because it was so easy and because it tasted great. The house smelled amazing while I was roasting the tomatillos, too. I couldn't find poblanos at the store, so I used a few large jalapeños instead, which worked just fine. The tomatillos took about 10 minutes total on the rack closest to the broiler, while the jalapeño and onions took a total of 15 minutes. Also, I looked up some suggestions for roasting tomatillos online, and decided to slice them in half horizontally, to maximize the surface exposed to the broiler, which worked great. I peeled the garlic after roasting but not the tomatillos and jalapeño, as it didn't make sense to me to lose all the nice roasted flavor, and it worked out fine. We doubled the recipe so we could have extra sauce, which was an excellent idea. The recipe makes for a really tasty salsa that only gets better after a day in the fridge. We used leftover chicken, so we only had enough chicken to assemble 6 enchiladas using taco-sized tortillas. They fit fine in our 11-by-7-inch glass baking dish. Being health-conscious, we didn't fry the tortillas but rather warmed and softened them on a griddle for about 30 seconds before using them. Warming the enchiladas for 30 minutes in the oven worked for us. Dinner was the highlight of the week, and it was the green sauce that really made this recipe a winner. We have plans to make bulk batches of it to eat with chips, over scrambled eggs, with grilled chicken and fish. The recipe is flexible enough that my goal will be to broil as many tomatillos, onion, garlic, and peppers that will fit on a half-sheet pan, and that should make about 2 quarts of tomatillo sauce. The salsa verde freezes well, so if we have extra, I'll just pop it in the freezer for a lazy day.

    This chicken enchilada recipe tasted great and was moist and wonderfully creamy. Since I tend to prefer green sauce to red, I’ll be coming back to the salsa verde portion of this recipe for other dishes. I cooked the chicken the previous day by poaching a 3 1/2-pound whole chicken. It does seem, however, that it would make more sense logistically to start cooking the chicken first and then multitask a bit on the broiler portion while that's cooking. It didn’t take incredibly long (about 10 minutes) for the broiled items to be cool enough to work with. I used 2 cups shredded white meat chicken, and it seemed to be about right. After turning the broiled vegetables over after 5 minutes, they weren’t quite done, so I left them in for another minute and half before taking them out. The tomatillos were getting more than just a few black spots but hadn’t turned (what I would call) olive green. Heating the tortillas for 10 seconds per side was spot-on, though it took a bit longer for the first couple. I thought 1/4 cup was a little too much oil for this, or at least more than I would use on my own. Next time I make this recipe, I think I would try quickly assembling each enchilada and popping it into the pan as the next tortilla is frying. Once I started fitting the tortillas in the pan, it was clear I would have extra space. My corn tortillas were about 5 3/4 inches in diameter. I had enough extra filling for 2 more tortillas (14 total), and that made things fit a little more snugly in the pan. It's a recipe that can be made in components and then put together later. With both the chicken enchilada filling and the green sauce made in advance and the cheese already shredded, this would be a fairly quick meal for a busy night.


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    1. If you like green salsa, try grilling the poblanos, onions and tomatillos on your gas or charcoal outdoor grill. Grill the onions whole; I prefer the sharpness of white onion to the yellow, plus the garlic can be pureed raw, and I like the chunky quality from doing this in a food processor rather than a blender.

      Obviously this is an advance preparation to refrigerate and keep on hand, but green salsa is fantastic with scrambled eggs at breakfast, and wonderful on grilled beef cuts like tri-tip and bavette. I also use it to make pork chili verde.

      And there’s a great garnish that goes with salsa verde– chop or finely slice white on onion and soak in white wine vinegar for about an hour. Drain and toss with coarsely chopped cilantro and lightly-toasted, crushed coriander seeds.

    2. I’m a big fan of salsa verde and I look forward to trying this.

      I just thought I’d add that the chiles are much easer to skin if you place them in a plastic bag for 5 minutes before you go at them.

    3. This recipe is fabulous. Unfortunately, I gave some to my family and now they request them ALL the time. I make a batch for me and one for them to share. The green sauce is fabulous. I add jalapeños to spice it up a bit as another reviewer suggested. Highly recommended. Usually is a quick lunch or dinner.

    4. I’ve been making almost this identical dish for a long time, having created it when trying to duplicate a beloved restaurant dish called Enchiladas Yolandas. I came up with a variation last autumn that I think your readers might want to explore.

      We had a huge glut of English peas in our fall garden, and when making the green sauce, I added two cups of lightly cooked (just softened) peas in with the rest of the veg puree. I know it’s very un-Mexican, but I can hardly express how the sweetness of those peas complimented the tart tomatillos and the sharp chiles. It really took my standard sauce to a whole new level, and I now make it that way all the time. (Out of season, I just use thawed, uncooked frozen peas; the ones marked ‘baby’ or ‘tiny’ peas are the best.)

    5. Ummm… the photo doesn’t seem to match with the recipe directions. It doesn’t show any sauce on the outside of the tortilla — perhaps for photographic purposes. “Enchilada” means coated with chile sauce. (Entomatada means coated with tomato sauce; enfrijolada means coated with bean sauce). I would at least drag the tortillas through the green chile/tomatillo sauce before filling and rolling.

      1. Yep, you caught us, Jim. What you see is the photo from the book, which we received permission to post, and unfortunately food stylists sometimes go rogue and don’t follow the recipe verbatim, as in this recipe where the photo doesn’t depict the enchiladas smothered with sauce as the recipe directs. We hate when that happens, as it can cause confusion. As for dragging the tortillas through the sauce prior to filling and rolling, be our means! We’ve made enchiladas the way you describe as well as the way that this recipe directs love ’em both. Just depends on our mood. Appreciate the careful reading of the recipe and look forward to hearing what you think of the tomatillo sauce.

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